The state of peace under six years of Duterte: A work in progress or a bust?

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte, harping on his Mindanaoan roots, made it his campaign promise to enhance peace and development in the conflict-torn island.

The first president to hail from Mindanao promised to help the Moro people resolve their grievances, many of which stem from decades of neglect and disputes over ancestral land.

CNN Philippines looks back at the state of peace under six years of Duterte.

The most significant piece of legislation targeted for Mindanaoans that was concluded during Duterte's term was the historic passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law two years into his presidency.

The signing of the law is the result of decades-long peace negotiations between the rebel groups in Mindanao, mainly the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and different Philippine presidents. It abolished the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) — allegedly marred by corruption and mismanagement — and established a new autonomous political entity with more power, including its own parliament.

Moros continue to hope that the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) means the Bangsamoro could have a chance at genuine self-governance that they have been fighting for, for decades.

The new Bangsamoro government was parliamentary-democratic in form, a first in the country's political history.

RELATED: The history and implications of the Bangsamoro Organic Law

BARMM Chief Minister Murad Ebrahim said Duterte's "greatest legacy" for Filipino Muslims is the creation of BARMM.

Its implementation, however, has not been as smooth as expected largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Months before he was to step down from office, Duterte signed a law amending the clause of the Bangsamoro Organic Law that says the first election for BARMM officials should be synchronized with the national elections in May 2022.

Republic Act 11593, signed in October 2021, effectively moved the first regional parliamentary elections in the region to synchronize with the 2025 midterm polls and extend the term of the 80-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority for three more years.

Peace and insurgency: One step forward, two steps back?

During his inaugural address in 2016, Duterte assured Filipinos that his administration is committed to "implement all signed peace agreements in step with constitutional and legal reforms."

The chief executive, who once called himself the Philippines' first left-leaning president, vowed to end the three decades-old armed struggle with communist rebels before he steps down.

He later changed his tune — a common occurrence with the president — declaring an all-out war against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing the New People’s Army (NPA). He accused the rebels of continued attacks amid peace negotiations.

Early on in his term, he began referring to the CPP-NPA as a "terrorist group" — a glimpse of what was to come for the group's founder Jose Maria Sison and fellow officials.

Despite Duterte's clear promise of peace talks, he permanently abandoned negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the CPP, halfway through his presidency.

He instead mentioned his administration's preference for localized peace talks, which he deemed more effective against the underground Left.

He said the government and communist insurgents will continue to "fight forever" due to "lack of accountability" on the side of the rebels.

Duterte then went on a verbal rampage against the NPA and Sison, who has been a political refugee in the Netherlands since the 90s, during his televised public addresses.

When the highly legally contested Anti-Terrorism Act was passed into law, the CPP-NPA-NDF was among its first casualties. The Anti-Terror Council, an executive body consisted of Duterte's Cabinet members, in May 2021 designated Sison, NDF peace consultants Vicente Ladlad, Adelberto Silva, Rafael Baylosis, Wilma Tiamzon, Benito Tiamzon, and 12 others as terrorists — which meant their assets were immediately frozen by the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

RELATED: Gov't designates Joma Sison, 18 other CPP officials as 'terrorists'

Duterte's anti-insurgency efforts cannot be tackled without mentioning the controversial National Task Force to End the Local Communist Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) under his office.

NTF-ELCAC officials — arguably the most prominent of whom is Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy — have been criticized for red-tagging students, activists, journalists, opposition lawmakers, and even Vice President Leni Robredo.

Despite calls to abolish or defund the anti-communist task force, Duterte continued to place his trust in the NTF-ELCAC.

On the month he is set to step down, the president said the NTF-ELCAC has succeeded in addressing the rebellion head on despite only being established in December 2018 to attain inclusive and sustainable peace through a whole-of-nation approach. He added the task force would have been successful in almost wiping out the communist insurgency if it could be given two more years to operate.

Prior to the elections, he expressed hope that his successor will continue providing support for the NTF-ELCAC.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said around 300 ranking leaders of the NPA were killed, captured, or surrendered to government forces over the course of Duterte's presidency. He said 1,544 members of the Abu Sayyaf Group, 971 Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and 1,427 Dawlah Islamiyah members were also neutralized from 2016 to 2019.

The top officials also said the biggest effort of the Armed Forces of the Philippines against local terrorist groups happened in 2017 when the government ended the five-month siege of Marawi started by fighters linked to the terrorist group Islamic State.

The Battle of Marawi and the city's painstaking rehabilitation

One of the biggest challenges encountered by the administration early on was the Battle of Marawi.

On May 23 2017, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) tried to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, a wanted leader of the Abu Sayyaf rebel group in Marawi City. As it turned out, Hapilon had allied with the Maute Group which supported ISIS. Maute rebels moved to fend off the military operation, triggering a firefight.

By evening, Duterte declared martial law over all of Mindanao — an order that would extend until December 2018.

The war ended five months later on October 23 with the deaths of militant leaders Omar Maute and Hapilon, the deaths of some 47 civilians, destruction of homes, and the displacement of nearly 360,000 residents in the capital of Lanao del Sur.

RELATED: Duterte takes full responsibility for Marawi devastation

Five years since the war, the government task force mandated to oversee rehabilitation efforts reported that the restoration of the war-torn city was only 72% complete, despite Duterte's clear-cut order to complete it before he steps down.

In May 2022, the developed areas remain surrounded by rubble indicating that many Maranaos have not yet returned to the most affected communities to rebuild their homes.

Based on the April 2022 report of Task Force Bangon Marawi, there are 17,793 families who are from ground zero.

Out of some 2,700 applications to rebuild their homes, the city government of Marawi issued permits to 1,201. Only 95 homes have been rehabilitated and 361 are still under construction.

The establishment of power and water lines, which are essential for the return of the displaced families, are still ongoing according to Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra.

Full stop for federalism

When Duterte was courting Filipinos to be the next president, he campaigned hard to push for a shift to federalism if he is elected, believing it would pave the way for a more equitable distribution of wealth and political power among the regions and bring lasting peace to Mindanao.

Four months before stepping down, he completely gave up on his promise, conceding that Filipinos are not "ready" nor "enamored" to establish a federal system of government wherein each proposed state will be empowered to create and enforce their own laws, finances, and development plans.

"Hindi kami nagkulang pero as president and as honestly as I can be, hindi talaga tanggapin ng tao, karamihan, kaya hindi nagtake off,” Duterte said on February 25.

[Translation: We did all we could. As your president and as honestly as I can put it, the majority did not accept it, that's why it did not take off.]

What to expect under Marcos administration

Even with President-elect Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. inheriting Duterte's unfinished business, the new president's plans for Mindanao and BARMM remain largely unknown.

Marcos secured the majority of votes from BARMM in the May polls.

Ebrahim promised Marcos that the Bangsamoro government will continue to be open and cooperate with the new administration.

Meanwhile, Marcos' National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos said peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA will not be revived under the new administration.

Carlos, who will also serve as vice chairman of the NTF-ELCAC, told CNN Philippines that peace talks have not been successful in ending the insurgency so it will be a waste of time to resume them.

With the retired political science professor, malicious and dangerous red-tagging by the task force and its officials could finally come to an end.

"You don't define a person by labeling. May katuturan ba 'yan? Di ba wala? O kung walang katuturan, bakit mo gagawin pa? Tama na 'yan. Wag na natin gawin 'yan," Carlos said.

[Translation: Is there a point to it? There's none, right? So if there's no point, why even bother doing it? Enough of that. Let's not do that anymore.]